In my experience as a reader, it is very rare that I have come across a book that has stirred up intense emotions deep in my heart. I consider myself a rationalist – I think I take the most important decisions of my life through logic and reason rather than impulse and feelings. However, The Great Gatsby is one of those rare books which has confused me and made me contemplate my life, and the circumstances that I live in, to such an extent that I have almost lost sleep over its story. The book is very relevant to my current circumstance as I am able to relate to the characters well. It has a story that has stuck to me. The story has filled me with questions, thoughts, confusions and a heavy sense of loneliness. How often do we read a book that makes us feel lonely?
The story is set in the 1920s in New York City. It talks about finding romantic love in the age of material excess. The book is a love story centered on Jay Gatsby, the protogonist and Daisy, the girl Gatsby is in love with. There are other very interesting characters such as Tom Buchnan, Nick, Mytrle and others, each one representing a certain shade of human nature that adds colour to the story. Each of these characters has been well written, and they all sync together in the story seemlessly making the book an enjoyable read. It is a valid argument to call this book as the great American classic.
Gatsby’s character is very mysterious. He is rich, smart, and has all the excesses that one can ask for. He is very wealthy, even though the source of his massive wealth is not known and open to random gossip. He is famous for throwing the most lavish parties in New York City. His parties are attended by the rich and famous people of New York City, mostly without invitation. Not many people know about Gatsby, his background or why he throws those lavish parties, nobody really seems to care. However, that does not stop people in attending his parties and treating themselves to the finest liquor and entertainment they can find. The book revolves around Gatsby’s search for his long lost love Daisy. Daisy is now the wife of Tom Buchnan, a wealthy gentleman living on the other side of the bay on Long Island. Gatsby would not have been able to marry young Daisy after their dating days because Gatsby was poor at that time. Now that he has all the wealth and excess that one could ask for, will he be able to express himself again? Will his wealth and fame help him in getting back Daisy, his love, who is now married to Tom Buchnan (happyly or otherwise)?
The concept of the great American dream is very attractive. The idea that one can be whatever one wants to be, provided he is willing to work hard for it, has been popularised in literature for a long time. This book describes the many facets of this great American dream. All of us have big aspirations. We all want to live in big homes, own and drive fast cars, wear the finest clothes and drink the finest wine. We all want to do all of this and more in the eyes of other people – a.k.a society. We have a point to prove, a point that we have an identity, to say that we have arrived. Now, the question is who is listening and caring about us, or to whoom are we making this point? Does society truly care about us? Or does it care more about what we have? Maybe it cares about us only for as long as we have. Uncertainty is the truth of life. All days are not made the same. There are good days and bad days, good experiences and bad experiences. Will these invisible people – a.k.a society stay with us through out? If we are certain that they don’t, then why do we care so much about making to the dream in the first place? The book will open up your mind with such thoughts. It will make you think, contemplate and one will start looking inward in an attempt to seek answers.
The great American dream is all about going and getting whatever it is that you want through sheer hardwork and determination. America is considered a land of dreams as it enables the dream chasers to realise their full potential and live their dreams. Now, does this apply only to material things such as houses, cars and parties? Or does this apply to love? Can one find love in his life by working for it? Love happens, more often at the younger age than otherwise. When one is young, he is typically not economically stable as he is still husling his way towards his big dreams. His economic condition during the early days does not make him eligible to marry the girl that he loves. If in case his economic condition improves over time, due to his sheer hard work and determination, will he still be able to marry the girl he loves? Times change, circumstances change, sometimes more suddenly then we would expect it. One needs to learn to adapt to new circumstances and rapid changes. Does love remain the same? Or does it change with changing circumstances and various other socio – economic parameters? The book has made me ask these questions. It has not answered them for me, but it has quite certainly stolen my sleep in a fruitless pursuit of finding answers to such questions.
Questions about love and romance never seem to have objective answers. It is all up to a person’s individual experiences. Each person’s life experience is unique to him. There are no set rules or definative ways to solve problems around the concept of love. I have never been in love. I have very little idea of what the experience feels like. For a reasonably long period of time, I had been happy with myself and felt that I am emotionally self sufficient. My pursuits of love have failed. Recent emotional challenges in my career and family have made me feel a bit lonely. I picked up this book in this context. I must say it just opened up my mind with a lot of questions. If in case I do find love, this book and the questions it has opened up for me, will definitely be a hot topic of discussion between her and I. Untill then, I will have to let these questions add to my loneliness. How often does a book of fiction stir such heavy emotions in the reader?
As I said, each person’s life experience is unique and different. I have expressed the emotional aspects of my experience reading The Great Gatsby with you. But, it is my experience and I own it. My experience is none of your experience, so go get your own experience in reading the book. I am sure it will strike the emotional cards in you and open up your mind.